NL 2008/03a

Unwanted pregnancy on stage

Author Ödön von Horvath presents slice of life

"God can testify that I never wanted a child, it was her wish, not mine," Alfred (actor Marcello de Nardo) will affirm in Vienna’s People’s Theatre from March 7th. "Immediately I wanted to get rid of it but she stubbornly resisted," Alfred says.. "To get her into the procedure I had to become very clear." In 1931, in his play "Stories from the Viennese Woods" author Ödön von Horvath didn’t have to make it up; he could just write about everyday life.

When the abortion doesn’t work, Marianne (actress Katharina Vötter) gives birth to her baby and brings little Leopold to a foster mother, where he soon dies. Erni Mangold, playing the grandmother, dictates a letter to Marianne: "Dear Miss! – Yes: Miss! – Unfortunately we must tell you very sad news. God in his Almightiness has decided that you, dear Miss, should not have a child. It caught a flu and then died quickly. Stop. But take comfort in thinking that God in his Almightiness loves innocent children."

How frequent those "problem solving strategies" were can be seen from a register of deaths prepared in a rural area: " ... from 1859 on, a lot of foster children from Vienna, Graz and other towns can be found in this register. Even families with many children of their own took foster children in, partly because of finances... These mostly illegitimate children seem to have been of very poor health since many of them died immediately after arrival."

70 years later, it’s still not going smoothly

If you combine your theatre evening with a visit to Vienna’s Museum of Contraception and Abortion, you will quickly realize how up-to-date Horvath’s play still is. For example, a cost comparison done by FIAPAC* shows how widely abortion costs in the EU differ: between € 20 und € 800. After adjusting for the consumer price index they are highest in Austria. (*FIAPAC – International Federation of Abortion and Contraception Associates.

Furthermore there are major differences in the EU regarding reimbursement: In all western European countries that have legalized abortion, social security covers the procedure completely or at least most of it. Only in Austria, Slovakia, and Lithuania women must finance abortion themselves, with very rare exceptions. There are still a few European countries where abortion is still illegal: Ireland, Malta, Poland, San Marino, and the Vatican.

In contrast to most western European countries Austria blocks access to the "morning after pill". For example, in France this emergency contraception is distributed by school nurses. In Austria you have to bring a doctor’s prescription to a pharmacy. Just imagine how difficult it can be to do this at night or in rural areas.

"Stories from the Viennese Woods" can be seen March 7th, 10th, 13th, 15th, 16th, 20th, 22nd, 26th, 31st, 2008 at 07.30 p.m. at Vienna Volkstheater (Austria).

Testimonies and documents from everyday life in the past can be seen every Wednesday through Sunday from 02.00 p.m.- 06.00 p.m. at the Vienna Museum of Contraception and Abortion, Mariahilfer Guertel 37, 1150 Wien (Austria).